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    New World Spanish Military Crossbow

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    MatadorMac
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    New World Spanish Military Crossbow

    Post by MatadorMac on Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:09 am

    Good day.

    I am working on an academic/practical project to reproduce a 1540's Spanish New World military crossbow. Once completed it will be used to test various theories concerning ballistics, field use and repair, influence on battle tactics, etc. Currently this is a self funded project.

    To begin with I would like to develop a priorized list of the design elements of such a crossbow. If an historically correct project might need a composite materials prod can this be replaced by a prod with similar working characteristics and so on?

    As I am just beginning my project specific research I do not yet know of any existing examples. If anyone can suggest a museum or collection where such an example(s) might be found I would appreciate it and try to follow up.

    Now, for a few working research parameters.

    1. This weapon would have been a design suitable for extended field use away from major support centers. 2. It must be readily maintained, fed and repaired in the field by a mobile force operating in unfriendly territory with limited technological resources and little or no chance of resupply.
    3. Is it reasonable to assume that for a mobile field force this crossbow design must also have been one which was capable of being more quickly cocked and fired than possible with windlass or crannequin types? My thought is that they were most likely cocked by hand without much tool use and either non-stirrup or stirrup designs.
    4. Given the above, are we looking at a draw weight of approximately 75 lbs, more or less, etc.?
    5. The historic bolt heads recovered from field excavations so far indicate that they were made from copper. As far as I am aware no complete bolts have been recovered but there is also no reason to believe at the moment that the bolt design would have had to be different than the standards of the day.

    Project Issues to be Solved
    A. Materials used in the construction: wood, horn, antler, sinew, cotton/linen, possibly parchment, copper, hide glue but also perhaps casein/lime as well, brass and small amounts of iron and/or steel.
    B. Cocking style
    C. Draw weight and pull
    C. Overall crossbow design, weight and handling characteristics

    As you can see I am in the research and basic design stage. Any and all help will be appreciated. I continue to read through this forum. It is all fascinating and much pertains to my project.

    En avant!

    MatadorMac
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    Re: New World Spanish Military Crossbow

    Post by Ivo on Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:16 am

    I'm no big on history, but I believe these crossbows were pretty heavy being in the range of 200lb draw weight and were spanned with a goats foot lever or cranequin.

    There is some nice information in this topic here...and here

    Our Moderator Mr SAM as well as Geezer and Lightly from New World Arbalest would be the ones I'd contact if I was doing this kind of research. Good luck!




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    New World Crossbow

    Post by Geezer on Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:19 pm

    Spanish New World Crossbows? Geezer here. Fifteen years ago, I built four Spanish 'New World' crossbows, based on the Padre Island ship wrecks of 1554 for Archaeologists for the Texas Historical Commission and Corpus Christi Museum. One of those bows was full-size and weight, the other three were made lightweight (about 90 lb. draw, using Alchem's lightest steel prod) for use by docents at several museums, including one for the Turks and Caicos Islands museum and two for Corpus Christi (Tex) Museum of Science and History. When the job was done, we published an article on the Padre Island bows in the Journal of Historical Archaeology... that was about 1995.
    The Padre Island bows are small and slender... very similar in appearance to the Maltese bows posted elsewhere on this site. Prod length was approx 22 inches (I'll look that up and get back to you) about 1 inch high and 3/8 inch thick. Brace height about 4 inches and draw perhaps 5-6 inches. I would estimate power to be in the 300-400 lb. range, which qualifies it as a lightweight military bow. Spanned with a 'gafa' or 'goatsfoot' lever.
    Stock is made of red oak, approx 1 and 1/2 inch high and wide at lock, 2 inches high at the head (around the prod) and less than 1 inch wide at the tail (estimated, everything from just behind the lockplates was long ago devoured by teredo worms.) We estimated stock length at approx. 28 inches, but it could be as much as 32 inches...( one Spanish 'yard' or 'Vara'.) Bone roller-nut is approx 1 inch wide and 1 & 1/8 inch diameter, with iron plug-type sear.
    Top of the stock is flat. The bolt-groove fades out about 2 inches ahead of the lock as is common in this type. The 'chin' of the stock, beneath the prod is 'keeled' into a 'V' cross-section, about an inch and a quarter wide at the top and 3/4 inch wide at the bottom. Lockplates and 'cheekplates' are about 1/16 inch. thick, each made in one piece, riveted in place.
    Again, the Maltese bows are very close in appearance, but the Padre Island bow was rather cheaper construction. The best preserved fragment from the archaeological dig showed a number of subtle errors in construction: X-rays of the stock show the rivets that held lockplates and cheekplates in place were drilled noticeably off-square, the nose-ring for hanging was clearly put in crooked and later corrected, and the roller-nut has one lug very slightly wider than the other, so the whole thing is a tiny bit off center. It's not exactly a BAD bow, but it's certainly not master-craftsmanship either.
    If you want to test for comparable power, velocity, etc. you're gonna have to build something in a similar range for power. 75 lb. won't tell you squat.
    Good luck on the replication project. Geezer.
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    copper crossbow bolts

    Post by Geezer on Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:04 am

    MatadorMac mentioned copper points for Spanish, new world crossbow points. I seem to recall from my reading of Bernal Diaz-del Castillo's memoir, that during the conquest of Mexico (1510-22) Cortez put local artisans to work, making crossbow bolts with 'copper' points. (I have wondered whether those points were pure copper or some copper alloy, like bronze, brass, or gunmetal.) Anyhow there is documentary evidence for copper points in the new world, though I seem to recall reading about iron/steel points from archaeological finds in north Texas and in Florida.
    For copper points, you're gonna have to find an artisan who's prepared to make them from scratch. Hardened bronze or brass might give better penetration than soft copper.
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    Re: New World Spanish Military Crossbow

    Post by Ivo on Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:15 am

    I believe I heard that such a crossbow was found by archeologists with a wooden spanning lever lying next to it...is spanning a 300-400lb bow possible with with an all wood lever? Shocked




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    Spanish bow/wood lever?

    Post by Geezer on Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:49 am

    One of the Padre Island bows was found with a steel 'gafa' or goatsfoot lever. As for a wooden lever, I think you could make one to handle a 400 lb. bow, I think it's feasible, at least if you use a good stout wood, like oak or hickory and reinforce a few points with iron. geezer
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    Re: New World Spanish Military Crossbow

    Post by Lightly on Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:35 am

    MatadorMac

    Here are some photos:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/swifthoundbows/sets/72157612720020116/
    on my Flickr site, of the first spanish bow that I made under the supervision of my Master, Geezer...
    These are fairly faithful reproductions of the bows that Geezer described found in the shipwreck off of Padre Island, TX.
    Well, as faithful as one gets, while keeping in mind that one is making them to sell at a reasonable price!
    I should love to get even more "faithful" as it were, in the near future...

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